Actors: Ben Platt, Rick Springfield, Sebastian Stan, Audra McDonald, Kevin Kline
Director: Jonathan Demme
Producers: Marc Platt, Gary Goetzman, Diablo Cody, Mason Novick
Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Ultraviolet, AC-3, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen
Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Indonesian, Cantonese, Thai, Spanish, English
Dubbed: French, Portuguese, Thai, Spanish
Audio Description: English
Region: All Regions
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: November 24, 2015
Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2018
Run Time: 101 minutes
It is truly a sad state of affairs when the most impressive acting in a film featuring Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline is a performance from former rock icon, Rick Springfield. Not since Will Smith and his obnoxious pseudo-celebrity child collaborated with M. Night Shyamalan to make the post-apocalyptic disaster of a film, After Earth, has an actor been so horribly blinded by the urge to work with their own undeserving offspring. This is the kind of performance that would kill most careers, though the lack of famous actresses her age allows Streep the freedom to make a Mamma Mia every few years, without repercussion. As much as Streep’s growling and guttural performance as an aging wannabe rock star may be like nails on a chalkboard to anyone who has ever actually held a guitar, it is nowhere near as obnoxious as the obviously nepotistic casting of her real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer. And all of this is sloppily held together by a lazy and reductive screenplay from
Streep stars as Ricki Rendazzo, an aging and failing musician working as a grocery store clerk between weekend gigs at a dive bar in Temecula, CA. When she receives news from her ex-husband (Kline) that her only daughter (Gummer) is getting a divorce, Ricki returns home to try and fix the relationships she has neglected for decades. If this plot sounds familiar, that is because it is nearly exactly the same as Danny Collins, minus the fame and believable performances. This is a huge difference to screenwriter Diablo Cody, but not because Ricki is unsuccessful; rather, what is significant to her is the fact that Ricki is a woman.
In one of the more obnoxiously biased sequences of the film, Ricki laments that her choices in life would have been celebrated had she been a man rather than a woman. The evidence given is the fact that Mick Jagger has many kids by different wives, and Ricki makes the assumption that all of these kids consider the Rolling Stones frontman a good father. Not only do I find this assumption insulting to the kids of Jagger, but I also don’t think that this statement would be anywhere close to the same had the Rolling Stones met a similar amount of fame and success as Ricki and the Flash. This is less about feminism than it is about our culture’s adoration of fame and success, though Cody would have you believe that it is another case of gender inequality.
When Cody wrote her first screenplay, it was met with a great deal of (underserved) attention. The dialogue was hip and over-written, and she was treated as the voice of a new generation for a few months. As many years as have passed, Cody has yet to come anywhere near the success of Juno, though now her desperate attempts at remaining hip and relevant now appear as cliché as possible in terms of structure, and bluntly archaic when it comes to the dialogue. She is still using the word “gay” in a derogatory manner (Wake up, Cody, it’s no longer the 1990’s) and in the same scene that a group of middle-aged adults also use the phrase “Cray-Cray.”
The third disappointment of this film comes from director Jonathan Demme, who I had hoped would be the film’s only saving grace from a contrived sentimental resolution. In the past decade, Demme has stayed within the confines of art cinema and documentary filmmaking (as well as a surprising amount of television work), neither of which has a strong tolerance for cliché material. Though the last thing I wanted was another Rachel Getting Married (or A Master Builder, for that matter), part of me hoped that this style would at least shave some of the more predictable elements out of Cody’s ‘script-by-numbers’ screenplay. Instead, Demme’s voice is hardly noticeable amidst the work of Streep and the stripper.
Even the editing of the film treats the audience like complete morons, listing the name of each city as the narrative enters it, despite there only being two locations in the entire film and dialogue to establish where the scenes take place moments before or after the large text appears. It is almost comical to see the announcement that we are in Temecula only moments after Ricki has shouted “Thank you, Temecula!” from onstage. It is one thing to dumb down your film for audiences, but this is so dumb that it nearly feels like a parody of another film, with Streep’s rock persona resembling the type of caricature typically seen on “Saturday Night Live.”
In the most comically contrived scenes of the film, Ricki shows up at a wedding to play a song with her rock band and is met by outrageously bad overacting by nearly all of the background actors. When Ricki begins to play rock music, the reaction is so absurdly exaggerated that these extras look as though they have been borrowed from the film Footloose. One woman even covers her ears, as though rock music (old enough to be considered classic rock, no less) is still seen as culturally offensive. This seems to be further evidence of Cody’s sad attempt to retain her rebellious credibility amongst youth, but that died the moment that she used “Cray Cray” in her screenplay.
Exclusive to the Blu-ray are a handful of special features not available on the DVD release. This is clever, as there is no other reason to splurge for a high definition presentation of a film such as this. Even if it were well made, this is not the type of movie that demands extra clarity in either the visuals or the audio. These extras include deleted scenes, a cast photo gallery, and a featurette about
surprisingly solid performance. Also included is a making-of featurette that is
also included on the DVD release. The final perk of this release is a digital
HD copy of the film. Springfield
Entertainment Value: 4.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 3/10
Historical Significance: 2/10